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Lyn Lifshin


But Instead Has Gone into Woods

A girl goes into the woods
and for what reason
disappears behind branches
and is never heard from again.
We don’t really know why,
she could have gone shopping
or had lunch with her mother
but instead has gone into
woods, alone, without the lover,
and not for leaves or flowers.
It was a clear bright day
very much like today.
It was today. Now you might
imagine I’m that girl,
it seems there are reasons. But
first consider: I don’t live
very near those trees and my
head is already wild with branches




Some of it I’ve
given away, I guess that
comes from thinking
nobody could
want it.
Fat. Something you
take in and just
can’t use.
It hangs around
reminding you of what
wasn’t totally
digested, a layer of heavy
water, grease

having so
much I’d dream the
4:30 tall thin
shadow thighs were
me, pressing so hard it
hurt, a
punishment squeezing
myself into
me, into
what I didn’t
want. Afternoons
with the shades drawn
examining and hating what
I saw, longing for one of those
svelte bodies

I put the
scales back, would have
beat myself with
rubber chains

when I was 12 I bought a
rubber girdle, nobody
knew I peeled it off with the
door locked

Somebody once said
you’ll never get
cold this winter
fat legs
like that

How could something like fat ever
protect you from anything
outside being only an
extension of yourself, cells
spreading, making you
more vulnerable,
fat people having more
places to bruise
or scar

I sat in a room and
watched the
river when
other girls
were going across the
state line,
were necking in cars at
Lake Bomoseen
despising those
layers I
didn’t need

belly that
I hated and squeezed into
clothes a size
too small, hips, but
worse, thighs, I
hated them
most, spreading out
on benches
for basket ball practice

Once I lay on my
back cycling air until
the room spun

white waves of the body,
I was so ashamed I wouldn’t go
to the beach

My mother always
said Yes, you’re pretty
eat and I curled
into myself
eating what made
me worse

tho I wanted to
wear pleats
and be delicate

In one store a
man asked her
is it difficult
having one daughter
who’s so lovely? and I
hated my sister for being
blond, her body

like a Keene
waif,  I was jealous of
her eggnogs and
how meat had to be
coaxed to her

You can’t camouflage,
hold anything in
that long. It explodes,
a rubber girdle pops,
letting go.
Then they know
that there’s more
than you can

Look at me now and
you say but those
thin wrists

 Listen, when I weigh
over a hundred I
break out in
hives. We

all think of the way
we were

especially when it
comes to what we
don’t love

Once when I was
walking home from
school the elastic
on my underpants died.
The next day someone
wrote kike on the
Both I knew were a result
of fat

I’ve never been good
at getting rid of
what I can’t use
but that’s when I
knew that I had to

that round face with
glasses, bulging
thighs. You know

when some man says
love it’s still
hard to believe

If I wear my clothes too short, it’s to
remind myself (I still
avoid mirrors,
glass) that my

legs are not
unlovable, I

want you to see I finally am
someone you might
want to dance with

this me waiting under
neath on the
side lines

years of
getting down to

But it really is
sweetest close
to the bone



Lyn Lifshin’s recent books are The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian (Texas Review Press), Another Woman Who Looks Like Me (Black Sparrow at Godine), Cold Comfort: Selected Poems 1970-1996, Before It’s Light: New Poems, and 92 Rapple Drive. She has published over 120 books and edited 4 anthologies. Chiffon, All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, Living and Dead, and All True: Especially the Lies are forthcoming. Visit her website at www.lynlifshin.com.

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